Designer Truths

I just read an article published on a popular stock photo web site I utilize a lot. It is located at: 

The article describes, in soft and funny quips, their take on what it means to be a designer. I laughed, out loud, for several seconds, at the author’s musings. Here’ s summary of their findings, as well as my personal assessment on each point.

Graphic Designers:

1. Spend the majority of time in A: Our Own World or B: Lala Land.
I would catagorize this as a certain TRUTH. (We) have the courage or the burning desire, to be anywhere else. Personally, to be everywhere, simultaneously. For clients, this is a bonus because we can take you or your audience to places they haven’t imagined yet.

2. We see green. TRUTH. (We care for the environment relentlessly.) Basically, we’re all good people.

3. Finding the right image for a project is like finding a million dollars. FALSE. Finding the perfect image for a project is like finding a trillion dollars. And, if we can’t find it, we will create it.

4. We have the attention of a goldfish.


OH! Sorry, I lost my place…oh yes, the attention of a goldfish. (Apologies for that over-used and tired clichéd time-stop.) If we do, in fact, have more on our mind, it is spaced evenly between “command-z” aka “undo,” and “I need a bigger monitor;” or “Bacon,” (in my case, Veggie Thai Rolls). SEMI-TRUTH. I admit that when I work hours-on-end on the same project, I do check the “before” and “after,” constantly analyzing which works best. And, yes, ingest a roll or two, in the process.

5. We’ve trained our brains to think rectangularly.
NOTSOMUCH. Granted, many of us do, but I would surmise that these days, at least half of us (obviously and especially, we package designers) think in 3D—and rectangularly, squarely, cylindrically, etc. 

6. We pray for a “Unicorn Deathmatch.” NO COMMENT. I’m climbing off of the Unicorn wagon right now.

7. We see the world in fonts. TRUTH. My ego smiles every time I see the font, “Anastasia”—albeit mostly on diner menus or marquees…. Personally, I spend more time deciding if I want to use a space before and after an em-dash or not.

8. Our schedule is like a that of a night club. TRUTH. Which is one reason we work well internationally. Actually, most of us are ever-accommodating. That, or perfectionists, usually one of the two.

For all that we designers are, we love what we do and hopefully, do it well. 

I’ve made a lot of comments on behalf of designers everywhere. If you are a designer (or a member of the general audience) and have more to say, or share, please do! 



Augmented Reality

Recently, a very loyal and successful client of mine asked my opinion on augmented reality used in advertising. I was chagrined to admit that I didn’t much about it. It turns out that very few do. Not including a publication that he advertises in, who asked him to address the potentiality of using this very new resource. 

It’s only about a year old and the technology is only recently available as an app to smart phones, which made me feel a little less embarrassed for not yet knowing the ins and outs. Of course, this was my impetus to learn more.There is a difference between augmented reality and the older technology of QR codes. As you have probably seen, QR codes offer a link to a URL to give you more information on the suggested product you are advertising. Once you scan the QR code, you’re taken to a new source of info (all on your smart phone).On the other hand, AR (Augmented Reality) gives you an immediate video resulting from the ad or object you’ve just read about in a publication or are viewing elsewhere. (You’re not taken to a separate URL, instead, a video pertaining to the subject in the ad, comes to life, immediately). You actually see a live translation of the exact ad you were just looking at. It is a blend of computer vision and object recognition. Pretty cool stuff.Yet, is it effective? One study claimed that AR will generate $300 million in global revenue in 2013.
There is even a tatoo artist that claimed to use AR on his tatoos.(Unsuccessfully) He was simply using QR instead. Although, be wary of privacy laws that will limit availability. Another study reported that 62% of businesses are considering using the new technology, but really aren’t sure about its popularity or investment. (See the study results here: If you haven’t heard of this technology, don’t fret, it is new and the success rate is still largely unknown. Another note of caution if you’re considering implementation: be wary of private publications selling this as (for now) everyone has their own app and it is applicable only to their advertising. Best to hire an independent marketer/designer, who will design for each of your ads, in any publication, as long as it doesn’t pose a competition to their current clients.There is not enough data available to convince me of its ROI quite yet.
My advice: Cautious optimism…

What’s your creative M.O.?

What is your business modus operandi and is it working for you?
Business processes and practices are essential in moving forward in a sensical and useful manner. Consider exploring the steps I will put before you as not only a creative process for your businesses’ marketing and design needs, but also as matrices to apply to other business challenges as well. As a graphic designer, I use creative processes all the time, in fact, for every project I have.
  • Determine objectives/Develop design strategies
  • Determine design criteria
  • Research
  • Create your concept
  • Design

Steps to determine project objectives:

    1. Have a discussion. Understand the real needs and thoughts behind past actions. Listen carefully to questions like these:
      • What is the history of your firm?
      • What are your short and long term goals?
      • What do you want to achieve?
      • What work have other designers done for you in the past and what were the results?
      • What is your marketing or design strategy?
      • What do you want others to learn about your product or firm?
    2. List the objectives and then write a statement for each problem using a clear and succinct description of your objectives. Summarize the key messages that will be expressed in the design.This statement is the verbal version of the visual you will make.
    3. Devise a plan to execute your objectives as best as possible. Determine goals, objectives, audience and marketplace. Figure out your plan of action in order to accomplish your objectives.Consider these questions:
      • What is the design function?
      • What is its purpose?
      • What is its role in the greater marketing plan?
      • Who is the audience?
      • Where will it be seen and for how long?
      • What spirit needs to be conveyed?
      • What are the unique selling points?

Use these questions to determine design criteria:

      • How much time is available?
      • How much money is available?
      • How will the project be used? Budget, time and usage are the three most important components to answer when determining criteria.


      • Get as much information from your client as they are willing to give you.
      • Research using only words and later, research using only pictures or photographs.
      • Ask questions, Write Letters and ask some more.

Create and Develop your concept 

      A design concept is the creative solution to a design problem. This is the most demanding step.

A creative solutions is:

      • It’s a solution to the client’s problem.
      • It’s expressed through the design medium or language.
      • It’s appropriate for the client/product, spirit and objectives.
      • It communicates clearly.
      • It’s functional. A package has to open; a pictorgram has to identify; a map has to direct.
      • It has impact.
      • It’s memorable.
      • It’s original.
      • It’s fresh, stimulating, exciting and stunning.
      • It’s executed appropriately and well.

Develop your concept by doing these:

      • Define your problem in your own words.
      • Know the message.
      • Think it all the way through.
      • Talk to people.
      • Brainstorm.
      • Use a good dictionary and look up and expand on your ideas.
      • Understand it fully.
      • Look at everything: visuals including paintings, book covers, photographs, wood type, old toys…anything and everything
      • Take notes.
      • Ruminate.
      • Be playful with your visuals—crop them, discolor them, change their order…
      • Change directions.
      • Analyze other great ideas/movies/books
      • Finally and most importantly, Trust your Intuition.


      This will undoubtedly change according to the design firm of your choice, so I’ll share my steps and I use the word “steps” very loosely here, as this is the part where less structure is definitely more.
      • Create a mood board.
      • Create hundreds of thumbnail sketches.
      • Create hundreds of word sketches.
      • Move on to rough drafts (where you will have a closer/clearer direction).
      • Create Comps (Comprehensives) which are basically the polished ideas in a format your client can easily choose from.
      • I will usually offer three options from which to choose.
      • The next stage involves any reworking or edits/small changes.
      • The final step is production usually utilizing many different people: printers/vendors, illustrators, photographers, maybe even messengers.

If you are currently having design firm developing a project for you this will be helpful in opening the lines of communication and if it’s a DIY project, now you know where to start and finish! It’s a lot to digest at once, but each segment is truly necessary to make certain designer and client remain on the same page and that the project is an absolute success! I would love to answer any questions or comments!

Direct Social Marketing

If you haven’t jumped on the social marketing analytics bandwagon yet, here’s breakdown of how those services are organised and how they potentially benefit your company:

The first step is to create an incentive or develop some kind of promotion. Based on that incentive, a PURL (personalised URL) will be created. This will have your branding, but will be directed toward your potential client (using their name) with offers or promotions that are unique to their industry. Your offer must be rewarding enough to get your contact to go to the PURL to fill out a brief information page and poll, thereby awarding them with the coupon.

(Make your buyers aware of the offer using direct mail or email programs.)

Then, (again based on the perceived worth of the promotion) using social media, the consumer will spread the offer to their friends and family in facebook, twitter, email, etc. and it will hopefully go viral.

The gem in all of this is that you get to track responses, analyze those responses, and strategize your next campaign based on the data that is collected. You can get poll results, export data, and learn the valuable statistical details that determine your next marketing techniques and targets.

When you’ve collected the data that dictates your next campaign, market properly utilizing consistent and appropriate graphics.

Market smarter. smile

The purpose of cryptograms.

This entry brings an opportunity to learn and perhaps, grow. I’ve been on a “crypto-binge” as of late. Playing and solving cryptograms as a wind-down to my day. For those of you who may not be familiar with the game; a cryptogram is a word game where a paragraph or quote is solved by substituting real alphabet letters for the hidden letters. For example, an “A” might actually be represented as a “Z” in the puzzle (clue). Here’s a simple cryptogram I just made up: RZCV Z PEEW WZQ. I’ll hold on to the answer for fun — just in case anyone wants to give it a try.

So, more to the point, it occurred to me that cryptograms/sudoku/crossword puzzles, etc., may be popular for a couple reasons:

1.) Competition. Don’t we love to compete!? I know I have a competitive streak in me. I keep it in check, but it’s still there. Maybe it’s part of a fight or flight response (I want to secure my place in the world) or the survival-of-the-fittest component, (If I exercise and strengthen, i will live longer).

2.) Compartmentalization. It’s a way to “fix” life, if you will. That’s a bit dramatic, but I do belive that because we can’t control so many things in life, i.e., death, these games help us to gain some level of control. In the world of puzzles, there is always a right way and a wrong way. There is always a definitive answer. This is so rare for us in life. How are the stocks doing? Am I gaining or losing money? Will I retain my current work position in this economy? Will my love continue loving me back? Will I be healthy five years from now? Will I be alive five years from now? It’s a throw of the dice. Yes, we can make some positive choices that will head us in the right direction, but when push comes to shove, how much is really up to us?

There is a third reason these riddles keep us occupied. Maybe we quite simply enjoy them. I would like to think this is the true reason I like cryptograms. They’re just a bit of fun to relax to. And I suppose that in itself is a very good reason.

We can all use more fun — no matter the guise.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach. What?

I’ve always had some difficulty writing blogs. I feel like a blog should be written only from an absolute place of authority; a place where you only teach others how to do something potentially they do not already know how to do. Old school thinking?
So, my intent with this blog is to do a little of both: teaching and learning. For you, it may serve as a chance to know IDS a little better. Curiosity is one of the best gifts the human race has. It leads to more learning and beautiful, intense connections between human beings. One teaching and one learning. Then the listener becomes the teacher. It’s a perfect circle. I will share what I learn every day. Some very small and seemingly insignificant subjects and others, that equip me with major life lessons. Hopefully in between I will be able to teach a few things as well. Because I know graphic design, I will more-than-likely involve that in a lot of the “teaching” segments. However, as I’m learning, a blog can be a gorgeous melting pot of anything and everything. So, here goes nothing…(forthcoming in my next writing). I welcome your thoughts, comments, and criticisms. Like I said, I’m here to learn as well!